• 63°

Great Sensations! Gum factory to bring 350 jobs

Officially, the crowd of people milling about in the abandoned welding shop was gathered to celebrate the announcement that a new company was coming to town.

But the casual observer could be excused for thinking he had stumbled into an old-fashioned revival.

The cause of all the excitement was American Gum Company’s announcement that it will convert the former welding shop in South Dallas Industrial Park into a manufacturing plant that could mean as many as 350 new jobs in Dallas County.

The Ypsilanti, Mich.-based company has purchased the 36,000 square-foot building and 22 acres of land. The plant is expected to be operational by midsummer. It will employ up to 150 workers by the year 2004 and 350 at full production.

Speaker after speaker echoed similar sentiments.

Wayne Vardaman, president of the Selma and Dallas County Centre for Commerce, said luring American Gum to Dallas County has been a yearlong project that required the cooperation of numerous individuals and agencies at both the state and local levels.

Among the government entities involved were the City of Selma, Dallas County, the Alabama Development Office, the Alabama-Tombigbee Regional Development Office and Pioneer Electric Cooperative, which manages and operates the industrial park.

Vardaman also applauded the efforts of &uot;Team Selma&uot; with helping to provide the enthusiasm that ultimately brought the project to a successful conclusion. Team members include Perkins, Dallas County Probate Judge Johnny Jones, state Sen. Hank Sanders, Craig Field Airport and Industrial Authority Director Menzo Driskell, and Pioneer Electric’s George Alford.

Sanders said it is appropriate that American Gum is in the business of making candy &045;&045; especially in light of the closing of Selma’s American Candy last year. He noted that many former American Candy workers are on the verge of running out of unemployment benefits.

Sanders said that while he has never personally been unemployed, his mother and father had. &uot;I know how painful that can be,&uot; he added.

ADO Director Neal Wade hinted that American Gum’s announcement could be the &uot;first in a number of positive developments in the Selma-Dallas County area.&uot;

Jones called the company’s announcement &uot;exciting.&uot;

Mike Savage, president of American Gum, said it was the ready availability of a pool of experienced workers that ultimately brought the company to Selma.

In addition to its largest-selling gum brand &uot;Sensation,&uot; which comes in a variety of flavors from watermelon to Tutti-Frutti, the company is planning a number of new product lines. Among them are a gum with bits of chocolate in it and gums that contain various vitamins.

Then, perhaps caught up in the spirit of the room, Savage closed his remarks by saying, &uot;Thank you, and may God bless you all.&uot;